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Federal health officials are hoping that delays in COVID-19 vaccine distribution may be alleviated by new guidelines issued January 12.
In response to bottlenecks in the vaccination rollout, the Trump administration expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone age 65 and older and anyone under the age of 65 with a health condition.
The initial wave of vaccinations was reserved for frontline health care workers and nursing home residents as part of prioritization guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the rigid prioritization rules contributed to hampering the pace of administering the vaccine.
Despite more than 25 million doses of the vaccine being distributed across the country, only around 9 million shots have actually been administered.
States have contended with health care workers refusing the vaccine, limited staffing, inadequate funding and what many describe as poor communication from the federal government and other administrative roadblocks. Some unused doses have even ended up in the trash can when no eligible recipient was available to take it.
The Trump administration hopes that the recent widening of vaccine eligibility will open up the floodgates by no longer forcing older adults to wait their turn. In addition, the administration will no longer keep millions of doses in reserve for the second round of the two-dose vaccine.
“States are being told immediately they need to expand to 65-plus as well as those under 65 with comorbid conditions,” an anonymous administration official told CNBC.
President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced the new administration would release all doses held in reserve.
The previous goals set by the federal government were to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020 and 50 million by the end of January. Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccinations within the first 100 days of his presidential term.